Summary: You might want to look up the word 'sycophant' in a dictionary. It well describes Jesus' opponents in this passage

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Jesus and the Sycophants

John 5:31-47


Last week we talked about the heated discussion that erupted between The Jews who were angry that Jesus had healed and done other work on the Sabbath and Jesus. The Jews got further enraged when Jesus answered them in a way in which He had acknowledged Himself to be equal to God.. Jesus told them that He was only doing what His Father has shown Him to do. The Father had given Jesus the authority to work on the Sabbath, to raise the dead, and to be their judge. As the Jews were standing in judgment over Jesus’ works, little did they realize the Jews were standing before the same one who would judge them at the last day.

It is evident from this passage that Jesus was no mere human being, although He was human. He was also more that some superhero with special powers. He was God the Son and, therefore, fully God. Yet Jesus never used this power to better Himself, but to serve others. When confronted with the cross before Pontius Pilate, He refused to use this authority to save Himself. He saved the world not through His super powers, but as a man who gave Himself willingly on a cross for us. How remarkable is this God whose power is demonstrated in such weakness. How great a love He must have for us to have allowed this to happen to Him!

Exposition of the Text

This week’s text picks up where we left off. It has the feeling of a courtroom. And a courtroom is where you expect to find plaintiffs, defendants, testimony, and a judge. All of these are present in this passage. Jesus, who the Gospel of John clearly states can read the thoughts of people’s hearts beforehand. He must have anticipated that they were about to state that no one’s testimony about himself/herself is admissible. The Law of Moses did say that in capital cases, there had to be at least two or three witnesses in order to condemn the perpetrator to death. There is no Scriptural precept about testimony given in non-capital cases as far as the number of witnesses are concerned. But Jesus seems to allow the multiple witnesses idea into this discussion with the Jews, perhaps because the dialog with the Jews would later lead to Jesus’ execution.

Jesus allows that the uncorroborated testimony of someone’s claims is not valid in court. This is not to say that the testimony is false or a lie. Jesus’ claims are no less true, even if everyone in the entire world rejects them. Jesus as much as says this when He says that He has no need of any testimony from a human being, including John the Baptist. Jesus knew Who He was. He knew where He came from. He knew who had sent Him. So they idea of testimony isn’t here for Jesus sake.

The testimony of John is mentioned here because of God’s will to save sinners rather than some need on Jesus’ part for recognition. This was no ego trip for Jesus. John the Baptist in prison needed encouragement to be sure he had pointed out the right Messiah. He asked Jesus for additional evidence. But Jesus had all the evidence He needed. Jesus called John a “bright and shining lamp”. A lamp eventually burns out of fuel, and so John had burned out. But his testimony lives on. He had borne this witness of Christ not for Jesus’ sake, but our own. In John 20:31, the Apostle John mentions that the purpose of the book of John was for the reader “to believe that Jesus is the Christ, and by believing they might have eternal life through His name.” This is in keeping with Jesus’ statement here.

This is another strange twist on who’s what in the courtroom. At first glance, it would appear that Jesus was the defendant and the Jews the plaintiffs or accusers. But in another way, it is the Jews who are truly on trial here with Moses being the accuser and God the Judge. Jesus was acting as the “would be” defense attorney trying to convince the Jews to trust Him to handle their case. He would even die in their place as a substitute defendant to get them off the hook, if they would only believe!

Jesus calls John the Baptist’s testimony as His first proof for the sake of the Jews that they might believe. He reminds them of the delegation(s) they has sent, and Jesus confirms the validity of John’s testimony. And for a while they has been attracted to this light, but when John failed to live up to their expectations of a Messiah, they quickly lost interest in Him. No one at any rate tried to rescue him from Herod.

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